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14 October 2004
An ancient Ohio quarry

Little-known Flint Ridge may be the most important historical site in Ohio (USA), but it's a place that's unfamiliar to most people. Flint Ridge State Memorial in southeast Licking County marks the site where ancient Indians quarried brightly colored flint, starting 11,000 or more years ago. The Indians needed razor-sharp flint for tools, weapons, ceremonial objects and jewelry, and Flint Ridge offered high-quality stone in a rainbow of colors: pink, gray, white, black and copper.
     The Ohio flint had a high quartz content, flecked with crystals that made it shine when polished by the Hopewell Indians. The 20-mile-long narrow ridge between Zanesville and Newark became the center of prehistoric economy across the eastern United States. Indian trails from other states led to Flint Ridge. Rock from Flint Ridge was traded for copper from Upper Michigan, mica from the Carolinas and shells from the Gulf of Mexico. Samples from Flint Ridge have been found as far west as Kansas City, in Louisiana and on the East Coast. Many experts say Ohio was the center of ancient Hopewell culture in large part because of the proximity of Flint Ridge and its rocky resources.
     The irregular flint deposits are about three miles north-to-south and nine miles east-to-west. They cover five to six square miles. Today, the site, managed by the Ohio Historical Society, includes a small museum that was built over one of the original quarry pits and provides information on the digging and shaping of flint.
     The Indians found flint outcroppings at the surface and then dug through the dirt and limestone to reach the hard and brittle flint. It was not easy and was hard work. You can see the remnants of hundreds of pits along the Quarry Trail that runs one-third of a mile through the woods. What you will see are a number of deep pits, filled with leaves and many with pockets of water. That's because a layer of brown shale is under the flint and keeps the water from sinking into the soil. You can also picture ancient Indians excavating the rock. Some of the pits are up to 20 feet deep and 60 feet across. Others are smaller. They are scattered along the wooded and hummocky ridge. It makes you realize the thousands of tons of dirt and rock that had to be removed by hand just to get to the flint.
     You will find flint outcroppings along the Creek Trail, and bits of flint are scattered along the trails. Taking any flint away with you is strictly prohibited, although you can purchase pieces of flint in the museum gift shop. Flint is the state stone of Ohio.

Source: South Bend Tribune (10 October 2004)

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